At the south end of Grant Park, 106 headless and armless torsos walk aimlessly in circles. Each figure stands ten feet tall and weighs about 1,800 pounds. Some face each other, others ignore their peers.

Thankfully, these are not real human torsos, but iron sculptures, designed by famed Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz.

Private donors, including actor Robin Williams, contributed over $700,000 to bring the torsos, which were cast by hand by the artist and her three assistants in a foundry near Poznan, Poland, to Chicago. In 2008, the figures were planted in the park, inviting visitors to mingle between the now-rusting torsos. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley advised "You've got to go through it yourself to feel the spirit of the artist and each piece of artwork." The entire installation is about 300 feet long.

Born in 1930, in Poland, Abakanowicz was deeply affected by World War II and the Soviet occupation of Poland that followed. She noted in her journals "I was obsessed by the image of the crowd... I suspected that under the human skull, instincts and emotions overpower the intellect without us being aware of it."

Initially known for her large-scale, fiber weavings, Abakanowicz began sculpting crowds of humanoids of sackcloth bonded with resin in the 1970's; in the 1990's she cast similar torsos in bronze. She named her Grant Park installation, Agora, after the piazza-like meeting spaces of ancient Greece. Her other torsos can be found in Dallas (Bronze Crowd, Nasher Sculpture Center) and Washington D.C. Puellae, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden).

Public Art: Agora in Grant Park, Chicago

Agora, Magdalena Abakanowicz. 2006

Tip: The state-of-the-art skate park located steps away from Agora, at the south end of Grant Park, is where advanced skateboarders practice their amazing tricks in Chicago. Concrete ramps, quarter pipes, down rails, marble ledges and more make this a prime spot for watching the street sport in action.


This is the Year of Public Art and Chicago is celebrating it's many artists and their contributions all year long! Search out more public art picks, see the FREE Chicago Cultural Center exhibits and share your photos #2017isYOPA as you go along.

Photo ©  Adam Alexander